Navigating the challenges of young rheumatologists

Prasandeep Rath MD, FACR, FRCP (Edin), FRCP (Glasgow), Fellow (NIMS), FRCM, Diploma MSK USG (UCAM, SPAIN)
Senior Director & HOD of Rheumatology, MAX Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi

What do you see as the primary challenges that young rheumatologists encounter as they begin their careers, and how have these challenges evolved over the years?

To choose the place of practice – private vs corporate vs govt, academics vs practice. I think with the advent of cheaper drugs like tofa, etc., the charm of practicing in corporate hospitals is diminishing, whereas private practice seems to be the way to go forward, just like endocrinologists. For those interested in academics, newer positions are constantly being created in both government and private academic institutions. Setting up the place and forming a team, getting to know your colleagues from other specialties, is the next most important aspect, as Rheumatology is always teamwork.

To get patients to know you initially, though, I think awareness among the public is more today than it was yesterday. But I feel that most of the youngsters seem to be in a hurry to advertise themselves through various platforms, the internet, etc., whereas I feel building up a practice takes time and patience. You need to build the goodwill of your peers, people through constant performance in terms of diagnosis, treatment, etc. Your work should speak for you.

Can you share insights into the complexities of managing both clinical responsibilities and administrative tasks in modern rheumatology practice, and how young rheumatologists can navigate these demands effectively?

To manage both, apart from clinical acumen, you need to have good time management, vision, leadership qualities, a plan for the growth of the department, farsightedness, and the ability to form a good team with effective communication. Most of the youngsters read and pass, but very few are groomed to be leaders, so I think the overall development of personality is a must right through the rheumatology training period. Apart from Rheumatology, a working knowledge about various processes such as setting up a data bank, collaborative research work with your peers should be imbibed early on. And finally, I feel effective communication is the most important tool for a budding rheumatologist today, both with people in general and seniors in their place of work like admins, HR, marketing, etc. With the increasing awareness and many myths and controversies shrouding the specialty, especially in people’s minds, a good rheumatologist today is one who can communicate effectively.

In an ever-evolving field like rheumatology, staying updated with the latest research and treatment options is crucial. How can young rheumatologists best balance the need for ongoing education with their clinical commitments?

I think passion for academics, learning, seeing patients, and then reading every day, especially difficult cases, is crucial. I always feel every patient is teaching us something, but we need to be keen, make notes, and read daily after coming home. Regularly reading journals, attending CMEs, conferences, courses, and discussing with your seniors, etc., enhances our knowledge and skills in the field.

Collaboration and networking can be instrumental in a rheumatologist’s career. What advice would you give to young rheumatologists seeking to establish professional relationships and build a strong network within the rheumatology community?

I think this is one sphere where the young rheumatologists of today seem to be spoiled for choices, with so many platforms available compared to our time, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. To interact with each other both academically and socially through various platforms, build networks, and create new sites, I think innovative thinking with good use of AI can really help create newer avenues of collaboration in the future. Specifically, designing AI-based apps for IEIs, for example, is the need of the hour, etc

Mentorship plays a vital role in the development of young professionals. How can established rheumatologists like yourself contribute to the growth and success of the next generation of rheumatologists, and what benefits does mentorship bring to both parties involved?

I feel we can help guide the young professionals early on in their career with advice regarding various aspects that can contribute to their growth. Spending time with them, discussing and counseling about their future, nature of work (government vs private, academics vs practice), according to their aptitude, can be immensely beneficial. Additionally, helping them in suggesting how to set up their place of work, lab, etc., and with equipment like ultrasound, and introducing them to their peers in other specialties. Also, assisting them in dealing with difficult cases/patients whenever possible.

Mentorship builds a close bond between the two and helps in fostering a long-lasting relationship. This, in turn, helps further strengthen our community.